Success stories give hope for heart disease sufferers

2013-01-16T00:00:00Z 2013-01-17T15:16:21Z Success stories give hope for heart disease sufferersJulie Dean Kessler Times Correspondent
January 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Success stories for patients are among the most rewarding stories of all, for both the patient and the doctor.

Dr. Keith Atassi at Northwest Indiana Cardiovascular Physicians recalls a patient who didn’t think much of his symptoms, but because of a family history of heart disease came in for a screening. It was a good decision. The screening showed he had a blockage and he had an angioplasty (which opens up an artery) right away. He was back home the same day, instead of staying overnight.

That’s because Atassi used a radial approach (through a wrist artery) rather than the more traditional approach through the groin artery.

“The process is so safe and convenient for us and for the patient, because the patient can get up immediately afterwards,” said Atassi. “The bruising is much less and any complications from going in through the groin are avoided

One health care provider tells this story on himself: Mark Kime, director of cardiovascular services at Porter Regional Hospital, “had such unusual symptoms that my physician and I agreed I must be depressed, and he began to treat me for that.

“But people I work with said I didn’t look well, and someone suggested I have a cardiovascular screening. I thought I was just slowing down because of aging, but all the while my heart was screaming out for blood because I was rapidly developing vascular coronary disease.

“I had slowly succumbed to accepting my loss of lifestyle without realizing (the disease) was an insidious invader.

“I got my arteries opened up with angioplasty and stents, and now there’s a spring in my step and I feel younger.”

Kime tells another success story:

“One of our cardiologists found several blockages in a man – it had him in imminent danger of a heart attack. He had open-heart surgery the next day, and later came in and expressed his gratitude, Such a wonderful thing –we live for that here.”

At St. Catherine Hospital, part of the Community Healthcare System, Dr. Samer Abbas tells of a 33-year-old man who exercised, doesn’t smoke, didn’t have any of the risk factors. He came into the emergency room because he just didn’t feel right.

“At first there didn’t seem to be a problem, but he said in the last three days he hadn’t been able to exercise.

“I decided to take him to the cath lab, where we discovered he had a 99.9 percent occlusion (blockage) of the main artery in the heart. He was about to have a massive heart attack.

”We chose stents (to keep the artery open), and he went back to work in four days.

“I always remember this guy because he could have had a massive heart attack, or been somewhere where they don’t have our (diagnostic and treatment capabilities).

Dr. Ramon Llobet at St. Catherine Hospital says an 81-year-old man who was a heavy smoker came in with chest pains and shortness of breath. An angiogram showed. He had 90-percent stenosis (narrowing) of a main artery.

“This patient needed bypass surgery, but he also had COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), so he wasn’t a very good candidate for that kind of surgery.

“We have a new cardiac assist device, called an Impella (a pencil-size catheter pump that draws blood from the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta). We used that and a stent, and now that patient is fine. St. Catherine’s is one of the first places to use the Impella.”

After being alerted to the situation by Dr. David Braunstein, who initially saw the patient and made the diagnosis, two colleagues at Franciscan St. Margaret Health used a new procedure – for only the fourth time in the world – to treat an elderly woman’s life-threatening condition. Dr. Michael Nicholas and Dr. Michael Nuyles earned international recognition as a Best Challenging Case award for their successful procedure.

The patient had a massive pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in her lung that had traveled from her leg, requiring immediate treatment. Nicholas said the ClearWay drug delivery balloon had been used for other procedures but never in the lungs. “I thought, why not try it?” Nicholas said.

Learning that interventional radiologists elsewhere had done the procedure, Nicholas consulted with them and went ahead, using the balloon that gently infuses a drug within the clot to break it up..

Nuyles said that presenting the case before the world’s top cardiologists has been a thrill – but the biggest satisfaction was helping the patient.

Dr. Sorin Lazar at Methodist Hospital in /Crown Point, Ind., recalls a 65-year-old woman who had a pacemaker. Over time, the right and left lower chambers of her heart were less and less in time with each other, so that 99 percent of the heartbeats were dependent upon the pacemaker, which normally does 10 percent of the work. Her heart muscle became very weak.

With the right lower chamber working ahead of the left lower chamber, that lack of synchronization is known to cause heart failure.

“We put in a whole new pacemaker and the woman was dramatically improved,” said Lazar. “It’s made a huge difference in quality of life.”

People can find out their risk for developing heart disease and ways to take steps to prevent it by calling Community Healthcare System, 219-836-3477or 866-836-3477 to register for a reduced cost Coronary Health Appraisal. For more information, visit

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